Popular (Blue Note)
The “great lost” album by the vastly undersung Van Hunt is no longer lost, but it’s pretty great. The Ohio savant caught notice in 2004 with his self-titled debut and Grammy-nominated single “Dust,” then took a leap forward with On the Jungle Floor, and its agile mix of soul, funk, rock and balladry, plus a fab reinvention of Iggy Pop’s “No Sense of Crime.” Blue Note was set to release Popular in 2007, but when Hunt’s label rep was let go, so was he, and the album was shelved. Hunt seemed stung, releasing several knotty, if interesting, records. Then, eclectic producer Don Was took over Blue Note and Hunt dropped him a line, and boom. In August, Popular escaped the can, brimming with Hunt’s studio prowess, unconventional vision and usual range, plus the surprise countrified soul of “N the Southern Shade.”
Loner (New West)
Caroline Rose opens Loner with a critique of hip conformity, decrying the party where “they all have alternative haircuts and straight white teeth.” The song is called “More of the Same”; unluckily, Loner sounds like a collection of pumped up indie-rock tracks ready-made for commercials. The song title is apt in the sense that she’s ditched the raucous-folkie shtick of her debut, I Will Not Be Afraid, in favor of something more polished and poppy. But while Rose’s reverbed yelp carries personality, it doesn’t overcome the glistening yet generic settings. Rose actually becomes tedious over the course of Loner, and her one-dimensional takes on sexist boneheads and materialist matrons feel as rote as the MGMT ripoff “Jeannie Becomes a Mom.”
Myths 003 (Mexican Summer)
The Apollonian acid artists from Sweden toured with the indie-folk rocker from Brooklyn in 2009, culminating in a festival at Big Sur, which Dungen’s Gustav Ejstes properly declared “f*ckin’ sick.” So while collaborations are crapshoots by nature, Woods and Dungen seems a promising combination—especially considering Myths 003 was recorded last year following another famously inspiring confab, the Marfa Myths festival. Though the opening “Loop” sounds a bit more like Tinariwen-meets-King Gizzard, Myths 003 ebbs and flows gracefully between the two groups’ characteristic elements, with Woods’ Jeremy Earl’s nerdy croon taking a turn on the San Fran folk rock of “Turn Around,” and Dungen’s dreamy psychedelia emerging on the lovely “Marfa Sunset.” The inane groove of “Saint George” is the one misstep and seems forgivable, almost a reminder of the artistry involved in the remainder of the deceptively casual Myths 003.
King Gizzard &
The Lizard Wizard
Gumboot Soup (Flightless)
As for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, the group’s latest is Gumboot Soup, which bandleader Stu Mackenzie declared “definitely not B-sides or anything.” But what do such hierarchies even mean to a band that releases five albums in one year? Mackenzie’s protest makes sense, in that Gumboot Soup collects leftovers from the previous four albums—and since they all had a sonic thread, from the hipster lounge jazz of Sketches of Brunswick East to the frenetic hard-prog of Murder of the Universe, this collection is bound to sound disjointed by comparison. Sure enough, while hard psych is the default, you also get the slinky “I’m Sleepin’ In,” the doom-lite “The Great Chain of Being” and the skronky funk “Down the Sink.” As a band, King Gizz is a well-oiled machine—if Mackenzie ever embraces melody, look out.